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Travel Tips: Check in More, Carry on Less

by Joyce McGreevy on March 13, 2017

The old Skansen fire station at Bergen, Norway, inspires travel tips as a writer checks in about lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Instead of packing in more and more, reflect on traveling light. (Bergen, Norway)
© Joyce McGreevy

Lessons Learned from Traveling Full Time

Travel is packed with learning experiences, like when to check in and what to carry on. Here are a few travel tips and lessons learned from traveling full time.

Don’t get jet-lagged before the flight. 

An in-flight view of Arizona inspires a writer’s travel tips about what not to carry on, like stress and too much luggage, lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Don’t fry before you fly. (Somewhere over Arizona)
© Joyce McGreevy

Does your travel checklist rival the Labors of Hercules? Racing from mall to mall, turning down invitations from loved ones, packing at 2 am for a 6 am flight—that’s no way to transition into travel.

Other countries have stores, too. Currently, I’m on a tiny Greek island located a day’s journey from anywhere. With a population of around 1,000, there are just a few shops in the island’s only town—and each is remarkably well stocked.

Leave it, don’t lug it.

A cat curled up in an open suitcase inspires travel tips about what not to check in or carry on when traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

You can only carry so much.  (Evanston, Illinois)
© Joyce McGreevy

If you wouldn’t wear number of outfits in a month at home, don’t pack x-times-y-squared that number for a week abroad.

On one 3-month trip, I hiked in the mountains, swam in the sea, attended a wedding and went to a movie premiere. Everything I wore fit in one small suitcase—and there were still items I never needed.

Know your own essentials.

I always pack a favorite apron. The kitchen may be rented, the country as yet unknown, but the moment I put on my apron, I feel at home.

For me, travel includes cooking, chatting with greengrocers, and a local cooking lesson or culinary walk. It deepens my sense of home, wherever home happens to be.

A man selling figs in Kadikoy, Turkey inspires culinary travel tips and other lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Eat the food, drink the water, talk with strangers. (Kadiköy, Turkey)
© Joyce McGreevy

Never let complainers rain on your plane to Spain.

No matter when you travel, someone will say you shouldn’t. It’ll be too crowded, deserted, hot, cold, expensive, touristy, and so on.

About Barcelona I was told, “You’re going in winter? That’s totally the wrong time.”

“What time of year do you recommend?”

“Don’t know, never been there. But winter, yuck. I hear it rains all the time.”

Do pack your sense of humor.

It didn’t rain that winter, but that’s beside the point. One summer I had an unexpected layover in Reykjavik. With 10 hours before check in, I’d pre-arranged a private tour. Excitedly, I exited the airport.

A rain-obscured view of Iceland inspires travel tips about keeping one’s perspective and other lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Behold! The beauty of Iceland!
© Joyce McGreevy

The wind shoved me back into the terminal like a wall of NFL linemen. I had two choices:

  • carry on, as in rant and rave at the weather gods.
  • carry on, as in do the limbo under the gale and go meet my driver.

I shocked Stefan by showing up and then spent the day absorbing insights while everything around us absorbed the rain.

Photo ops be damned. It was a marvelous day—and Iceland will still be there when I return.

Likewise, don’t be too quick to bypass places that others dismiss. It’s often just a matter of broadening your radius. Walk around, meet people who live there, and see for yourself.


A tower at Malmöhus Castle, Malmö, Sweden inspires travel tips about visiting underrated cities when traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

When people say things like, “Oh, Malmö, Sweden isn’t really Sweden,” go anyway.
© Joyce McGreevy

Don’t turn precaution into paranoia.

Yes, there are places where pickpockets and others of ill intent operate—it’s called Earth. Travelers anywhere should take sensible precautions. Just don’t believe everything you read online, including about your own community, or you’ll never leave the house.

Separate facts from urban legends of the “OMG my friend’s cousin’s dentist knows this tourist who got into a taxi and had a kidney stolen” variety.

Be for real.

Don’t be the person who keeps asking, “How much is this in real money?” or “What time is it really?” The money’s real and the time zone that matters most is the one you’re in.

Hikers above Royal National Park in New South Wales, Australia, inspire a writer’s travel tips about enjoying simple pleasures while traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Hiking in Australia: Our packs were light, but our hearts were full.
© Joyce McGreevy

Try local foods and brands. At a sacred pageant in Italy, one dialogue shattered the hush:

Traveler 1: “Didn’t the drugstore have deodorant?”

Traveler 2: “Yeah, but not American deodorant.”

School yourself.

Consider a travel tip every schoolteacher knows: Build background.  You’ll create rich context for your experiences.

Here in Greece, I’ve been taking classes in Greek history, language, and mythology. It’s about experiencing shivers of recognition, epiphanies about the culture, and the sheer joy of deepening my sense of place.

Saving up long-term for travel? Building background is a great way to stay motivated. Listen to Italian as you fold laundry. Find cross-cultural connections in your local museums. Follow a podcast like “Londonist.” Read Turkish novels, listen to Bulgarian music.

Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery inspires travel tips and other lessons learned while traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Heads up! Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery shows why museums are must-see’ums.
© Joyce McGreevy

Do take a second look.

Sinclair Lewis said that those who see one cathedral ten times have seen something, but those who spend half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals have seen nothing at all. Revisiting places is revelatory. Go beyond “been there, done that” and take a closer look.

An ancient stone lion in Bodrum, Turkey inspires art-centric travel tips as a writer checks in about lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

In Turkey, art may imitate cats . . .
© Joyce McGreevy

A scene of feral cats posing like statues in Istanbul, Turkey inspire art-centric travel tips as a writer checks in about lessons learned from traveling full time. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

. . .and vice versa.
© Joyce McGreevy


There’s a world of places to explore—wherever we are. Take travel tips from the Slow Food movement: Don’t rush. Do savor.

Oh, I see: The most important lesson learned from traveling full time is that we’re all traveling full time. Eventually, our mortal passports won’t be eligible for renewal. Until then, check in more often, carry on less “baggage,” and be here for this journey of a lifetime.

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


2 thoughts on “Travel Tips: Check in More, Carry on Less

  1. I really love this post. It’s a great tip and lesson for all the travelers. It’s really a wise idea when traveling.

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